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At the Rink: Penguins at Capitals

by Adam Vingan

ARLINGTON, Va. – After a 3-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday, Washington Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom bluntly assessed the Capitals' power-play performance.

"We were terrible actually," he said.

Washington failed to score on five opportunities Sunday, taking two shots on goal in 8:58 of power-play time. To ensure that there is no repeat performance against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Verizon Center on Wednesday, the Capitals spent practice Tuesday working on special teams.

Coaches oversaw a full-ice drill emphasizing breakouts and zone entries, which were sloppy against the Flyers and prevented them from setting up effectively.

"Maybe a little more movement so we can establish better shots," defenseman Mike Green said when asked where improvement can be made. "Right now we've got to make sure we're creating open space and not just standing still. We've relied so much on our structure that we haven't really improvised in any sense; maybe a little of that to try to create some movement. We'll get our shots. It's just a matter of going to the net and banging one home. I don't think they're going to be the pretty plays, especially at this part of the season."

Despite the recent hiccup, the Capitals still have the second-ranked power play in the NHL at 23.7 percent. They have had some success against the Penguins this season, scoring three goals on 13 opportunities.

"We're still at the top of the League, so nothing too dramatic," Backstrom said.

Pittsburgh has lost the first three games against Washington this season by a combined 10-1 score. If the Penguins lose in regulation Wednesday, it will be the first time in franchise history that they were swept by the Capitals in a season series without earning a single standings point.

"We've got to come in here and play right and play our game," coach Mike Johnston told the Penguins website. "A lot of loose puck battles are going to be the key tonight."

Here are the projected lineups:


David PerronSidney CrosbyPatric Hornqvist

Chris KunitzEvgeni MalkinBlake Comeau

Zach SillBrandon SutterBeau Bennett

Nick SpalingMaxim LapierreSteve Downie

Paul MartinKris Letang

Derrick PouliotRobert Bortuzzo

Rob ScuderiSimon Despres

Marc-Andre Fleury

Thomas Greiss

Scratched: Craig Adams

Injured: Pascal Dupuis (blood clot), Christian Ehrhoff (concussion protocol), Olli Maatta (shoulder surgery)


Alex OvechkinNicklas BackstromAndre Burakovsky

Marcus JohanssonEvgeny KuznetsovTroy Brouwer

Brooks LaichEric FehrJoel Ward

Jason ChimeraMichael LattaTom Wilson

Brooks OrpikJohn Carlson

Karl AlznerMatt Niskanen

Cameron SchillingMike Green

Braden Holtby

Justin Peters

Scratched: Jay Beagle, Aaron Volpatti, Jack Hillen

Injured: Dmitry Orlov (wrist), John Erskine (neck surgery)

Status report: Schilling will play consecutive games for the first time in his NHL career, skating with Green on Washington's third pair. The Capitals are assessing their defensive depth, particularly those defensemen who are left-handed. "We've got to get a read right before the trade deadline, if we do anything, we want to at least have a read," coach Barry Trotz said.

Who's hot: Holtby has an .033 goals-against average. .989 save percentage and two shutouts against Pittsburgh this season. … Letang leads the Penguins with 24 points since Jan. 1. … Ovechkin has 22 goals in his past 26 games. … Fleury has allowed two or fewer goals in seven straight games.

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